JAKARTA: Mr Agus Susanto, 45, had planned to travel to Jakarta on Sunday (Oct 20) for the inauguration ceremony for the Indonesian president and vice president, and the colourful parade right after.
A staunch supporter of President Joko Widodo – who will be sworn in this weekend for his second term – Mr Susanto had prepared to cross the Java island from his hometown Madiun in East Java to the capital to witness the festivities.
But his excitement was dampened by an announcement made by Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko on Wednesday afternoon that the parade would be cancelled. Mr Widodo, he said, did not want a fancy celebration.
The announcement came amid tightened security in the capital following the stabbing of Chief Security Minister Wiranto by a terrorist last week.
Mr Susanto told CNA he was caught off guard by the unexpected news. He had already made flight and accommodation arrangements to attend the parade in Jakarta.
“I don’t know what to say. If I go ahead with my travel plans, but there’s nothing happening in Jakarta, what should I do? My friends (who also wanted to attend the parade) are all crying now,” the entrepreneur said.
Mr Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, is scheduled to be inaugurated with Islamic cleric Mr Ma’ruf Amin, 76, on Sunday afternoon at the parliament.
In the original plan, the pair, who won the election against retired army general Prabowo Subianto and businessman Sandiaga Uno with 55.5 per cent of the national vote in April, would then participate in a celebratory parade on Jakarta’s main roads.
One of the parade organisers, Mr Budi Arie Setiadi, had earlier told CNA that he expected hundreds of thousands of people to attend the parade.
He said the parade, planned one month in advance, would feature an elephant parade and traditional dance performances. It would be as joyful as the 2014 parade when President Widodo first took office, he said.
When contacted on Wednesday evening, Mr Setiadi said he accepted the government’s decision to cancel the celebration.
“I’m heavy-hearted, but we will comply,” he said.
TIGHTENED SECURITY IN INDONESIA
Across the archipelago nation, security agencies have been on high alert in the last couple of weeks, as deathly protests against a proposed change to the criminal code raged.
On Oct 10, Mr Wiranto was stabbed in the stomach during a visit to Pandeglang in Banten province and was immediately rushed by helicopter to Jakarta for treatment.
It was the first time a government official has been stabbed, and State Intelligence Agency Chief Budi Gunawan said the act was committed by two suspects belonging to the Islamic State-linked terror network Jamaah Anshaurut Daulah (JAD).
Following the attack, authorities have arrested 40 suspected militants in several provinces. National police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo revealed that there were suicide bombings planned by JAD in Yogyakarta and Solo.
On Wednesday, Mr Moeldoko, the Presidential Chief of Staff, denied that the parade was cancelled due to security issues.
"The president wants to get to work soon, so he hopes there will be no mass mobilisation and carnivals and so on," he said.
Sunday’s inauguration will be attended by foreign dignitaries, including Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Military Chief Hadi Tjahjanto has ordered extra security measures at key locations, such as the parliament, presidential palace, airports, state electricity firm and state-owned oil and natural gas corporation.
More than 30,000 security personnel have been deployed to safeguard the capital, he added.
"I WANT TO BE PART OF OUR DEMOCRACY'S HISTORY"
Judging at recent events, Mr Yohanes Sulaiman, a security and defence expert from the University of Jendral Achmad Yani, said there are real fears of the celebration being hijacked by those with the intention to disrupt peace.
He opined that the cancellation was probably due to a combination of political and security factors, although he has faith in the Indonesian police and military to maintain safety.
“If it was indeed called off due to security issue, wouldn’t it give the impression that the government is afraid of JAD?
“Until now, what is doing on in Indonesia is not a massive middle-class terrorism movement, but small cells. But of course, there is indeed a possibility of the situation being taken advantage of,” he said.
Still, many were still equally shocked and confused by the government's decision to call off the parade.
They have been waiting for this celebratory moment ever since the April presidential election, which was preceded by a six-month election campaign and marred by fake news and black campaigns.
Jakarta-based Ms Puri, who goes by one name, was disappointed at the abrupt cancellation.
She told CNA she has long admired the 58-year-old president, who hailed from a humble background but worked hard to rise to power.
She harboured a wish to meet Mr Widodo and to tell him that her village in Ngawi, East Java, needs asphalt roads.
"I am sad. We all wanted to celebrate together, we the people who supported Mr Joko Widodo.
"But we are just ordinary people, what can we do? I have voted for him twice … My vote went to Mr Widodo," Ms Puri said.
Mr Sakti from Yogyakarta said he had planned to drive for eight hours from his home to Jakarta to attend Sunday's event, while Ms Ledrika from West Sumatra said she had forked out money to travel to Jakarta just to catch a glimpse of the president on Sunday.
Mdm Dian Kurniawan, meanwhile, said she was unfazed by the cancellation as she had no intention to hit the streets for the parade in the first place.
It did not mean she has no interest in the inauguration. She has planned to tune in to the the live broadcast come Sunday, while taking care of her baby, she said.
"I want to be part of our democracy's history - the craziest and most tiring election ever, chock full of drama."